Tag Archives: legislation

Blowing Smoke May Again Become Fashionable in Las Vegas

Some people in Las Vegas are quick to contend that smoking, bars, and entertainment are inextricably linked together.   After all, how better can one relax?  It’s just the right thing to do, right?smoking

But for almost three years a Nevada voter-approved no-smoking law has been in effect that prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars that serve food, slot machine areas of grocery sorters, arcades and about every public place except the gaming areas of casinos.   Though the law exists, it has very little bit to it, with few even getting a citation.

Now that measure is headed for a legislative showdown.  And when the smoke settles, smokers may just be headed out to light cigs in their favorite watering hole to the delight of bar and tavern owners. 

The Nevada Senate voted 14-5 last Friday to advance bill SB372 that would allow adults to smoke in bars that serve food effective December 9.  The bill is also expected to be received well by the Assembly. 

Business owners contend the smoking ban was responsible for closing 47 bars in Clark County and the loss of hundreds and jobs. They further said profits are off 15 to 50 percent and their customer based has dropped by 25 percent.    

The smoking ban also lost $41 million for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority when a cigar and smokers’ convention moved to New Orleans where patrons could smoke on the convention floor. 

The Nevada Tavern Owners’ Association has further challenged the constitutionality of the smoking ban in an April 6 lawsuit awaiting the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision. 

However, anti-smoking advocates contend that tavern and bar owners are ignoring the fact that the economy has bone into a recession, using the ban as a scapegoat for business failure.    

Adding water to dowse the cigs, opponents say, smoking is just plain deadly, citing studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that show smokers cost the country $96 billion a year in direct health care costs, and an additional $97 billion a year in lost productivity.

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Sin City Vices Face Taxing Challenges

Las Vegas entertainment to some is not going out to an expensive dinner or even a movie- it’s simply having a nice slow drag on a cig after a hard day’s work while contemplating life’s woes over a frosty, frothy beer. sintaxes

But you better take your last chugs and drags now, for that all may soon change.   Instead of being considered expenses, these sanity-saving vices may soon become investments. 

If Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, has his way with bill AB277, it would more than double the taxes placed on alcohol.  The Nevada Assembly Taxation Committee is scheduled to hear proposals that would dramatically raise taxes on alcohol and tobacco. 

Despite Nevada’s out of balance state budget, hospitality industry spokespeople are warning that higher taxes will hurt the already crippled service industry and are fighting the proposal tooth and nail. 

But, for now, these sin taxes are considered the most politically palatable – the low hanging fruit.  

Taxes, if approved, would be raised as follows:

– Hard alcohol, and anything with with higher than 44 proof, or 22 percent alcohol, would go from $3.60 to $7.86 a gallon. 

– Alcohol with proof of between 28 and 44 would go from $1.30 a gallon to $3.43 a gallon. 

– Alcohol with proof of between 0.5 percent and 28 proof – most beer and wine – would go from 70 cents to $1.77 per gallon. 

The bill could raise as much as $100 million a year, according to Anderson. 

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States sent out a press release warning such a tax increase could seriously affect hospitality jobs. 

“In the depths of one of the worst recessions in history, I can’t think of a less appropriate time for Nevada politicians to punish the hospitality industry – the cornerstone of the economy – with higher alcohol taxes,” said Council Vice President Adam Smith, in the news release. 

Proposed Nevada Assembly bill AB255, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, would also add another $1 tax to a pack of cigarettes. Currently, the state tax is $0.80. 

How much money the increased tax would raise is unclear because studies have shown that increasing the tax on cigarettes causes sales to go down. One estimate, prepared by Nevada legislative staff, showed it could raise as much as $251 million over two years.

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Nevada Lawmakers Aim to Keep State Museums Running

nevadamuseum1On Thursday members of a Senate-Assembly budget panel rejected Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons’ proposed cultural program cuts, saying they want to find funding to keep Nevada’s museums operating at close to current levels as possible. 

Under the governor’s submitted proposal, spending on cultural programs would have been cut nearly 36 percent, to $19.1 million over two years, and staffing would be cut by up to 40 percent. 

The just-renovated East Ely Railroad Depot Museum and Comstock History Center in Virginia City would have been closed, the staff of the Nevada Historical Society would be cut, and other museums would be open only four days per week. 

“Our recommendation [to the governor] was to basically leave them open with a little bit of cut, but keep them operating as much as possible,” said Nevada Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, the budget subcommittee co-chairman. 

To potentially provide some additional Nevada museum funding, the subcommittee rejected the $7.7 million state computer program proposed by Governor Gibbons. 

If the museums remain open, Denis said, revenue from admission costs could also help the crisis. 

Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, also suggested museums review their policies on use of volunteers to provide adequate staffing at facilities. 

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the new Nevada State Museum at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve would have to wait until the 2011 legislative session.   That would mean the earliest the museum could open, according to Denis, would be 2013. 

If budget cuts are approved as is, library hours would be reduced from eight to four per day, staff would be reduced by half, and state library and museum archives could only be accessed by appointment.

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Chalk up one for Las Vegas ‘Adult Entertainment’ Peddlers

Like it or not, peddlers lining the Las Vegas sidewalks, clicking their provocative handbills, and otherwise hawking adult entertainment promotions to passerbys is a part of our historic, colorful fabric, and, for some, this perhaps adds to our alluring mystique.  After all, we are Sin City, right?   handbills

One can regularly see such peddlers on the sidewalks of the Las Vegas Strip, in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and many other places around town.  Almost everywhere except for congregating in original Las Vegas, more specifically the Fremont Street Experience.  

Until now. 

A court ruling recently set aside several Las Vegas ordinances that sought to limit such activities at the Fremont Street Experience.  Of course the laws could be once again appealed, but Las Vegas’ colorful Mayor Oscar Goodman, in his last term of office, said recently that it might be time to let the 12-year-old on and off again lawsuit go. 

The Las Vegas City Council will hear its options at an upcoming meeting, he said, and can weigh in on the merits of appealing the decision, trying to craft another set of ordinances or take some other approach. 

Quickly turning the other cheek, though, Mayor Goodman said Las Vegas would staunchly fight anyone who tried to pass out adult material, such as escort advertisements handed out on the Strip. 

“You don’t want to see one of these situations where a man takes his daughter down to Fremont Street to see the light show and has some smut shoved in his daughter’s face,” Goodman said.  “If they use the same aggressive mannerisms that they do out on the Strip, we’re certainly not going to tolerate that.” 

Glitter Gulch, a leading adult entertainment Fremont Street business, is just a stone’s throw away from anyone walking down those same streets. 

The American Civil Liberties Union was quick to challenge the city ordinances on free speech grounds, arguing that bans on passing out literature and advertising or on setting up tables to promote a cause were unconstitutional. 

The case has been winding its slow way through appeals, revised ordinace and more litigations since 1997. 

In enacting such ordinances, Las Vegas city leaders contend that businesses that rent space or kiosks from Fremont Street Experience LLC, which operates the pedestrian mall, needs some protection again people setting up competing sales operations next door for free.

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Red Rock Canyon Preserved in National Landscape Conservation System Bill

Though this bill has nothing to do with the bright lights of Las Vegas, the massive National Landscape redrockConservation System bill has plenty to do with protecting our collective natural heritage for future generations to experience.  

American Indian etchings on the sandstone walls, yucca plants, ancient Joshua trees and more are the beneficiaries when Congress passed this bill that makes Nevada’s three conservation areas, along with its 45 wilderness areas, 62 wilderness study areas, and 26 million acres of public lands in a dozen Western states, all protected in a permanent system. 

The newly enacted bill places natural lands importance on par with the National Park Services system and the National Wildlife Refuge system.  People will soon know what to expect when they visit these areas. 

Although the landscape system was established administratively by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and was kept intact by the Bush administration, it really didn’t have the necessary “teeth” since it didn’t guarantee Congress would make conservation an ongoing priority and fund protection efforts including artifact looting, vandalism, invasive plant and wildlife habitat damage from off-road vehicles and other intrusions, and cultural site and natural resource developments. 

The lands bill passed the Senate in January.  The House then tried to pass it last week by a two-thirds majority but fell two votes short. The Senate then reworked the bill last week and sent it back for reconsideration that passed by a simple majority of the House. 

Red Rock Canyon, located about 30 minutes west of  the Las Vegas Strip,  is one of the crown jewels of the National Landscape Conservation System.  The bill gives the 26-million-acre system in the Western states permanent congressional authorization to ensure its pristine features would remain intact for future generations.

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Prostitution Legislation Thwarted in Nevada

Despite our serious Nevada budget shortfall, including not being able to adequately fund our school systems and the teachers who develop young minds, the 2009 Nevada Legislature apparently won’t be taking up the proposal of legalizing prostitution and creating legal brothels.  prostitute

“It’s the only major industry in the state that doesn’t pay anything,” says George Flint, president of the Nevada Brothel Owners Association.  

The Nevada legislative staff had been drafting a bill to allow the mayor of Las Vegas to issue up to three brothel licenses as a pilot program until a brothel licensing board could be established. 

In exchange for the opportunity to expand into the Nevada’s urban counties, the industry volunteered to be taxed. 

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has always called for a public discussion of legalizing prostitution as a way to redevelop downtown Las Vegas and help provide budget revenues. 

Year after year the measure has been brought up.  Each time the legislative initative has failed.

Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley’s opposition this year was pivotal to the death of the bill, saying the bill would not be heard because “I do not support legalizing prostitution.”  Buckley runs a disciplined caucus and her strong opposition to a bill virtually guarantees its failure.

Although the battle may be lost, the war wages on.  Now, with state budget shortfalls taking center news stage, more groups are joining in to closely scrutinize the impact of such legislative decisions including  ABC’s “Nightline” that is delving into the concept of taxing prostitution in Nevada.

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Las Vegas Leaders Irate Over President Barack Obama’s Remarks

It’s difficult to find anyone in Nevada, politician or otherwise, who is not ticked off – boiling mad- over President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus legislation comments on Monday while he attended a town-hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana.  Obama said: “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”travel

Since then Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has appeared in front of every camera and microphone he can muster, nerves frazzled and hotter than fish grease about the President Obama’s comments, demanding an immediate retraction and apology.  He followed his demand in a letter. 

In our Nevada economy that has been particularly hard hit by the recession, the enflaming remarks by could prove disastrous, many Nevada leaders say.   The number of Las Vegas tourists fell 4.4 percent last year and the descent continued in December, which saw a 14.2 percent dip compared with 2007. 

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and chief executive officer for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, appeared alongside Goodman, saying later he couldn’t put a price tag on repairing damage from Obama’s remarks. 

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher followed suit, saying Obama’s comments had “wildfire potential.” 

Most business leaders agree that extravagant, ostentatious frivolous spending is one thing, but it’s the “Las Vegas fun factor” under control that can precisely be the economic stimulus ticket to drive up the attendance at Las Vegas conventions and serve as a win-win lift for our sagging national and local economies. 

But are out-of-town business conventioneers really listening? 

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. continued to draw heat and withdrew its plan to hold a three-day conference in Las Vegas after accepting $10 billion in federal bailout funds. 

Similarly, last week Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion in taxpayer money, cancelled a planned employee recognition conference in Las Vegas. 

The fear is that Las Vegas is unjustly getting a growing reputation as a frivolous destination for companies- and not just those getting federal bailout money.  To which Goodman responded, “What we’re famous for has nothing to do with the fact that you can have a serious meeting in Las Vegas.” 

Only time will tell what will be the ultimate economic tourism impact of Obama’s remarks- time Las Vegas has very little of.   It could be that Obama’s comment might tilt the economic pendulum more in favor of Las Vegas tourism, actually bringing in more tourists as Las Vegas continues to work damage control on its reputation as a place for serious business.

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